Sunday, 12 November 2017

Virtual Room - Review of their Adventure room






Hi everyone

This review will be a little different to my usual reviews, as this is a review of a virtual reality escape room, rather than a physical escape room.  It is the first time my team has tried a VR room.

I was contacted by Virtual Room and invited to come and try their room.  Virtual Room is one of 3 VR companies (that I am aware of) that have opened in Sydney recently.  I have been intrigued ever since I heard about VR rooms hitting Sydney – how would they compare to a real world experience?

Virtual Room is located on George Street in the city (in the same building as Escape Hunt Sydney).  We were unable to get a babysitter for this escape, so my wife sat this one out and it was the 3 remaining members of my usual escape room team that tried out their room.

This was our 48th room in Sydney and our 61st room in Australia. 

Here’s what I enjoyed most about the experience:


  • Virtual Room use HTC Vives for the experience.  I’m not really up to speed on the various virtual reality tech that currently exists, but I can say that the headsets were very comfortable.  When we each spoke I could easily hear my teammates.  And lastly, the quality of the graphics was excellent.  I wear glasses and I am happy to report that I would wear my glasses without any issues;

  • Virtual Room have a dedicated room for each player.  I think our rooms were about 3m x 3m, with the headset being connected to the ceiling in the centre of the room;

  • the game masters at Virtual Room explained that their games are designed with a real focus on ensuring that players don’t feel nauseous or get headaches.  This is achieved through the design of the game and the fact that when you physically walk within the room, you also move in the VR space.  As Virtual Room explain on their website “Games are also played standing up so your brain and your body are always working together just as they would in the real world”;

  •  as a result, I’m pleased to report that nobody in our team felt nauseous at all, either during the experience of afterwards;

  • the game is towards the simple end of the spectrum when it comes to puzzle complexity.  Virtual Room have designed this room as more of a beginners’ room, to allow players to get to moving around and manipulating items in a VR world;

  • that being said, the game design was very clever.  I won’t go into any specific detail, but the design allows Virtual Room to display the various kinds of worlds that could be applied to an escape room in a VR experience;

  •  there were also a number of puzzles that could not be solved without working together as a team.  Each player is in their separate physical room, but can see and interact with each other in the VR world.  The puzzles were designed to require interaction (and they were also a lot of fun);

  • having not played a VR game before (but having certainly played my share of computer games growing up), the controls were all very intuitive.

I would describe this experience as being more of a multiplayer gaming experience than a true escape room experience.  That being said, there is no doubt that many people who enjoy escape rooms would also enjoy this kind of VR experience.

Virtual Room have opened with just the one room.  However, they have plans to open more rooms.  They told me that their second room, due early in 2018, will be more of a traditional escape room theme, with a lot more puzzles.

The biggest shame of course with a great (physical) escape room outfit is that they are limited in the amount of space that they have, so once you have tried all of their rooms, that’s it.  Given the cost of setting up a room, they generally don’t take them down and replace them with new ones (or at least very few have done that so far in the Sydney market over the past 3 years).  The allure of a VR experience is that they could have a large library of themes to pick from – there really is no limit given it’s as simple as running a different program on the computer system.

For the escape room enthusiasts out there, I would certainly recommend this experience as a nice twist on the more traditional escape room experience.  It was a lot of fun (all 3 of us really enjoyed ourselves).  I think their next room will be even more suited to escape room enthusiasts.  

Based on our experience at Virtual Room, I'm really excited to see what the future has in store for VR escape rooms.


Where:                   Level 5, 393 George Street, Sydney

Duration:               45 minutes

Themes:                 1

Cost:                       We played at the kind invitation of Virtual Room

Overall Rating:       A really fun and interactive VR take on an escape room experience

More details:          https://sydney.virtual-room.com/

Friday, 3 November 2017

Next Level Escape - Review of Flash and Cyborg Room


Hi everyone

This is one of 2 rooms that we did back to back at Oz Comic Con.  You can read my review of the first of the 2 rooms here.

We weren’t our usual team of 4 adults for this escape, but we were instead my wife and I and our 5yo and almost 1yo daughters. 

This was our 47th escape room in Sydney and our 60th escape room in Australia.

A summary from Next Level of their Flash and Cyborg room is below:

Flash and Cyborg were seen together in this abandoned building.  We've put their security system into diagnostic mode so you can go in and investigate.  Cyborg has left a message with their current location, but he's encrypted it against prying eyes.

Decode it and get out before the security comes back on in twelve minutes!


Here’s what I really liked about the room:

·         as with Next Level's Aquaman room, we did this room with some strangers (a couple with their children).  It was interesting this time around as the other players weren’t quite on the same wave length as us (I really enjoyed the experience of again playing with strangers, as it gave me an idea of what it might be like in other parts of the world (such as the USA) where playing with strangers is really common;

·         the puzzles were all awesome.  They were of the very high quality that I expected from Next Level, based on their other rooms we had tried in the past;

·         there was a nice mix of low tech and high tech puzzles in this room (and in their Aquaman room come to think of it);

·         this room in particular had a reasonable amount of hunt and seek fun, which was great for kids (our 2 kids were in this room with us, as well as a couple of kids in the other family); 

·         as with their Aquaman room, the room was really cleverly designed to introduce new people to the world of escape rooms.  The puzzles were challenging but not incredibly difficult.  As with Aquaman, I am sure that many people who have been wondering what this escape room thing is about would have tried this room at the Con and would be booking in a full 1 hour experience in no time.

I have nothing to report on the negative side at all.  Next Level are a great outfit who really care about providing immersive and well-designed experiences.  It is truly impressive that they managed to put together such immersive experiences in such a short period of time for the Con.

I truly hope that the amount of word of mouth generated from their hard work really pays off for them (and that hard work will no doubt spill over into great benefits for the whole escape room industry). 

I was so intrigued by what it is like to play with strangers that I might post a separate blog entry on that issue (stay tuned). 


We were the last team to try the rooms at the Con.  Following us, Jason Momoa and some other Justice League actors were going to try their hand at the rooms.  I’ll have to check in with Next Level to see who got the better time ;-)
      
Also, watch out for Next Level's new room opening later this month.  It's called The Artefact and I'm really looking forward to checking it out!


Where:                   Oz Comic Con (Darling Harbour)

Duration:               
15 minutes

Themes:                 
2

Cost:                       
Included in purchase price of Oz Comic Con entry tickets

Overall Rating:
       A third brilliant 15 minute room from Next Level!


More details:          https://www.nextlevelescape.com.au/

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Next Level Escape - Review of Aquaman Room


Hi everyone

It has been such a LONG(!) time between drinks.  I played my last escape room back in July and I have been jonesing ever since.  I have pretty much tried all of the escape rooms in Sydney, so there aren't too many left to do. 

I was on a family holiday a couple of weeks ago up near Port Macquarie when I learned that Next Level Escape had designed 2 different 15 minute escape rooms for Oz Comic Con, based on the new Marvel Justice League movie.  I loved their Blitz and Ex Libris rooms (see my reviews of those rooms here and here), so I REALLY wanted to somehow get to the Con to check out their new rooms.  The problem was that I was due back in Sydney on the last day of the Con…

So I managed to convince my wife that we should drive back in the morning and then head straight to the Con.  I had bought my girls Supergirl outfits beforehand for Halloween, so they were in!  So after an almost 5 hour drive, we arrived at the Con.  Leanne, one of the owners of Next Level Escape, had kindly booked us a time slot for late in the day.

Out of interest, before we took on the room, we got to chatting with Leanne about how Next Level came to design the Justice League rooms.  Leanne mentioned that they were contacted by the company that was putting together the Con and asked whether they could put together some rooms.  It was a pretty enormous task to design 2 rooms in a very tight timeline (something like only a month or two).  But unexpectedly, the guys at Next Level were up to the task.

We started with their Aquaman Room.  We weren’t our usual team of 4 adults for these escapes, but we were instead my wife and I and our 5yo and almost 1yo daughters. 

This was our 46th escape room in Sydney and our 59th escape room in Australia.

A summary from Next Level of their Aquaman Room is below:

Aquaman was last seen in this Atlanteanstructure.  Aquaman, also known as Arthur Curry, has used an Atlantean artefact to conceal a message to Queen Mera.  Activiate it to reveal his location and unlock the trident blocking your escape. 

Queen Mera will be back in twelve minutes.  She looked pissed after reading his message, so get out before she returns!


Here’s what I really liked about the room:

·        firstly, this was the very first room we have tried when we were combined with other people.  This was a function of the rooms being fully booked out during the Con, so to get more people through Next Level combined different groups;

·        it was really cool to do a room with people we didn’t know.  It’s very different though to our normal experiences, where the 4 of us have known each other for ~25 years (so we can yell at each other and be quite “honest” with each other);

·        the other couple in our group were lovely and we kind of split up and each worked on different puzzles – this worked well as we escaped in a time that we were told was about 20 seconds off the record for the Con;

·        the puzzles were all awesome.  They were of the very high quality that I expected from Next Level, based on their other rooms we had tried in the past;

·        the theme was really cool too.  I understand from Leanne at Next Level that aspects of this room will be used in their new Artefact room, which is due to open this month.  My team are actually going to beta test the new room next week, so watch this space for my review shortly;

·        I think the room was really cleverly designed to introduce new people to the world of escape rooms.  The puzzles were challenging but not incredibly difficult – I am sure that many people who have been wondering what this escape room thing is about would have tried this room at the Con and would be booking in a full 1 hour experience in no time.

I have nothing to report on the negative side at all.  Next Level are a great outfit who really care about providing immersive and well-designed experiences.  It is truly impressive that they managed to put together such immersive experiences in such a short period of time for the Con.

I truly hope that the amount of word of mouth generated from their hard work really pays off for them (and that hard work will no doubt spill over into great benefits for the whole escape room industry). 
      

Where:                   Oz Comic Con (Darling Harbour)

Duration:               
15 minutes

Themes:                 
2

Cost:                       
Included in purchase price of Oz Comic Con entry tickets

Overall Rating:
       A second brilliant 15 minute room from Next Level!

More details:          https://www.nextlevelescape.com.au/